Thomas Baldwin came to me in 2013 with an idea: record audio of people talking about the objects that were in their desks. I told him we should take video instead, and make it about the whole room, not just their desks.
From the inception and at its core, Spacebook has been about object history. Thomas and I believe that every object has a story, and that the stories you choose to feature in your room(s–we quickly expanded beyond the confines of the bedroom) say something about you.
Around the same time that Thomas and I made the first Spacebook episode, I saw the Long Portraits of Clayton Cubitt. Long Portraits are exactly what you think they are (unless you think they are something other than the video equivalent of a photographed portrait, in which case, Long Portraits are nothing like you think).
Cubitt’s portraits reveal so much more about the subject than a single frame could. Take this Long Portrait of Graciella Longoria, recorded on the first anniversary of her father’s death:
Cubitt’s portraits can be excruciating to watch. He is asking his audience to spend up to five uninterrupted minutes watching a single subject. The subject does not leave the frame. The frame does not move. But the audience’s patience is rewarded; the portrait of Longoria is much more complex, more emotional, and more three-dimensional than just a single frame.
(Cubitt continued to explore how video [and other things] can change the traditional portrait in his series Hysterical Literature, which features women reading while an assistant “distracts them with a vibrator.”)
In his One Shot Stories series, Josef Kubota Wladyka takes the idea of a Long Portrait one step further (or one backwards): he adds words. A voiceover, to be specific. While you can argue that adding words to a portrait defeats the purpose, the strength of a good story is hard to deny.
It also fits well into the aesthetic of Spacebook. The idea coalesced quickly: a long portrait, taken inside or in front of a larger space that means something to the subject, and a voiceover explaining why it has meaning. I wanted to make the first one of these portraits in 2013; it took me two years to finally do so.
I find this idea–this new way of making a Spacebook episode–interesting for many reasons, chief of which is the change in dynamic between private and public spaces. In many Spacebook episodes, the objects in the subjects’ private spaces are artifacts of experiences in public spaces–museums, foreign cities, high school. (See Episode 3 - "Bramhall" for the prime example of this.) In these new Spacebook episodes, I will be able to explore the personal, private stories behind a subjects’ connection to a public space. While it is not a perfect 180 turn, it is a great and interesting parallel.
Spacebook has been a lot of things over the two years since Thomas and I made that first episode. Above all, it has consistently been a place of experimentation–in style, in form, in subject matter. This mini-series of long portraits is another step in that history of experimentation.
Adam Cecil is a writer living in Brooklyn. He is also the Managing Editor of this zine. You can find more of his work on his website.